December 8, 2021

Sun laboratory lands first major grant from NIH to study iron disorders

Shengyi Iris Sun, Ph.D., joined the Wayne State University School of Medicine as an assistant professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, and of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology in July 2019, and has already secured her first major grant from the National Institutes of Health. 

Shengyi Iris Sun, Ph.D.

Dr. Sun is the principal investigator on “Novel role of endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation in iron metabolism,” supported by a $1.925 million grant over five years from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases that started Dec. 1.

“Disorders of iron homeostasis affect millions of individuals worldwide, which cause anemia iron deficiency and increase the risk of diabetes, liver and kidney diseases upon overload. We recently revealed a novel role of the endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation, or ERAD, in regulating iron metabolism,” Dr. Sun said.

The ERAD is a principal endoplasmic reticulum, or ER, quality-control machinery to clear misfolded ER proteins for cytosolic proteasomal degradation.

“However, its pathophysiological role in vivo remains largely unclear,” Dr. Sun said. “The goal of our study is to investigate the novel role of ERAD in regulating iron metabolism, thereby to advance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying diseases associated with iron disorders.

The project could significantly advance understanding of iron disorders in humans, and disease pathogenesis associated with protein folding defects in general.

“I feel very excited and grateful to receive my first R01 award with the hard work and support from my lab members and colleagues. We look forward to the exciting scientific journey ahead with this support,” Dr. Sun added.

Dr. Sun’s collaborators include Yatrik Shah, Ph.D., professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Michigan Medical School; Kezhong Zhang, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics and of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology at WSU; and Yu-ming Mindy Huang, Ph.D., assistant professor of Physics and Astronomy at WSU.

The award number for this National Institutes of Health study is 1R01DK128077.

The project also is supported by the 2021-2022 University Research Grant from the WSU Office of the Provost and by the Health Research Associates grant writing assistance class provided by the WSU School of Medicine.

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